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Local public, private schools earn top grades from state

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All six of Johnson County’s public school districts received at least a B rating from the state.

Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant, Greenwood and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson all received an A, while Edinburgh and Franklin each received a B.

The Indiana Department of Education this week released school districts’ A-F grades, which were calculated based on the grades given to individual schools last month.

Franklin and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson both improved their school district grades from the C each received in 2012. Edinburgh was the one local district to see its grade slip from 2012, from an A to a B, according to the state.

The department of education assigns letter grades to individual schools as well as school districts as a way to measure how well students are being taught.

In previous years, schools’ grades were calculated by examining the percentage of elementary and middle school students who passed ISTEP and the percentage of high school students who passed end-of-course assessments, along with how those rates changed during the previous three years. Then-State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett changed the calculations for the grades to a formula so complicated that almost no one in the state could explain how schools’ grades were determined. His critics claim the change was made to ensure that an Indianapolis charter school received an A from the state.

School districts typically receive their grades in the late summer or early fall. Grades were delayed this year because of widespread, statewide problems with the online portion of ISTEP.

Schools that receive an F can be taken over by the department of education, but that doesn’t apply to any local schools. School grades also factor into teachers’ and administrators’ annual evaluations, which can determine whether they’re eligible for a raise.

Because of last year’s grade changes, superintendents and teachers have been skeptical about how meaningful the data are. State lawmakers are reviewing how schools’ A-F grades are calculated and are working to replace the current formula with a calculation that’s easier to understand and does a better job of tracking how much an individual student has learned during the school year, instead of comparing them with peers across the state.

Fourteen of Johnson County’s 42 public and private schools received improved grades, while the grades for nine schools fell. Even though state lawmakers are changing how the grades are determined, school officials at Franklin and Clark-Pleasant schools are working to create more time for teachers to collaborate to make sure scores improve.

School officials want teachers from different buildings to have more time to meet and discuss the teaching methods they’re using and to compare how effective or ineffective the methods are. That helps ensure that teachers use the most effective methods, Franklin Superintendent David Clendening and Clark-Pleasant curriculum instruction specialist Cameron Rains said last month.

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